School board member Kelly Byrne (hands on face) gathers his thoughts before speaking at the Feb. 28 school board meeting. Inquiring minds want to know: What was in his ear? (Photo by Jym Wilson)


On Wednesday, I asked school board member Kelly Byrne what exactly was in his ear at the highly entertaining and volcanic Feb. 28 school board meeting.

That’s the gathering where board member Dr. Maryam Mohammadkhani was stripped of her position as vice president, and a few audience members were ordered to leave for behaving like they were at Arrowhead Stadium.

Then it happened. The moment of Byrne’s ear. At 2 hours and 26 minutes into the meeting.

Member and Byrne-nemesis Shurita Thomas-Tate, from across the board’s arced table, asked him: “Is someone talking in your ear? Is there something in your ear?”

Thomas-Tate and Byrne were on opposite sides of the 4-3 vote to strip Mohammadkhani of her vice presidency. For the full story, colleague Cory Matteson suffered through … I mean, colleague Matteson wrote a story.

Or you can watch the video, which, on the bright side — at 3 hours and 28 minutes — is a half-hour shorter than “Gone with the Wind.”

Springfield Public School Board of Education members Kelly Byrne, left, and Danielle Kincaid, and school superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan listen to comments from the public at the Board meeting. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

It was a riveting in-your-ear exchange

The in-your-ear exchange was brief and, I must say, riveting.

Byrne responded with:

“Is there something in your ear?”

My analysis from extensive study of the video is that Byrne’s question was sincere, not in the vein of, “Your mama has something in her ear!”

I say this because when Thomas-Tate asked what was in his ear, she pointed to her own ear.

“No, in your ear,” she replied.

“Yes, there is,” he said.

“It is not electronic. But if you would like more details about something that is personal, you are welcome to ask outside the meeting.”

Do I want details? You bet I do!

I don’t know about you. But I want more details. If I could file a Sunshine request to find out what was in his ear, I would.

Without details, I would widely speculate, like many others have.

Is this political skulduggery? Is someone talking to Byrne during meetings? Coaching him up? Researching budget documents in real time? Scanning online criminal records to see if his rivals drink and drive?

But how could any of that be the case if the device is not electronic?

Same thing for a hearing aid. Aren’t hearing aids electronic?

I was intrigued. It’s not a question I often ask: What was in Kelly Byrne’s ear?

But I asked, and he answered.

Inquiring minds want to know: What was in his ear? (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Byrne reveals what was in his ear

“They are just little things that my wife gave me that you put in there,” he says. “What they are supposed to do — and they seem to work — is block out a lot of background noise.”

They are cone-shaped and made of silicone.

“They kind of change the way the sound enters the ear,” he said.

Product photo from Flare Audio press release.

The product is called Calmer by the brand Flare Audio. They’re marketed to help reduce stress from trigger noises, such as busy places, traffic or noisy children. They’re also marketed to those with sensitive hearing, misophonia (a neurobehavioral phenomenon associated with an intolerance of specific sounds) and other hearing conditions.

A company press release states:

“Whilst you’re reading your book or taking a walk, why not pop Calmer in. Calmer reduces stressful frequencies like traffic and mobile notifications — any noises that normally cause you stress.

“These clever non-electric silicone in-ear devices work by channelling sound into our ear whilst minimising distortion, reducing the ‘unpleasant’ audio frequencies known to cause most stress.”

I know what you’re thinking. Did Shakespeare write this?

No, but the company is based in the United Kingdom.

It occurs to me that little did those Brits foresee that the Feb. 28 Springfield school board meeting would be a cracking fine environment for the use of their product.

This is Pokin Around column No. 102.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin